15 things I have ACTUALLY learned at university

Everyday wisdom

  1. There is more than one concept of happiness!
    While some people wonder why people like to settle down early, others wonder what it is with that restlessness that constantly pushes people to different places. No matter which way you choose, don’t let anyone convince you of a concept of happiness that doesn’t fit you and don’t try to convince others of yours in return! In the end of the day, you are the one who actually really cares about your own happiness, so discover what makes you happy and pursue that path, even if you’re labelled a hipster, yuppie, hippie, average or whatsoever.
  2. Persistence is worth more than quick success!
    We all know it – failure is a part of learning. Stay focussed on your goals, along the way you will meet new people, new perspectives and eventually a surprising door will open which you hadn’t have in mind before. Plus: a quick success story is boring – what are you supposed to tell your grandchildren one day?!
  3. Perfectionism is tricky!
    You will never ever EVER be perfect, neither will I, neither anyone else on this planet. On one hand, striving for accomplishments, improvement and development can be a healthy, exciting and inspiring process, on the other hand, it can lead to mental cramps. Probably everyone has this one friend who is very anxious about personal failure and displays this fear to both professional and private life. Paradoxically, exactly the fear to fail is what causes failure.
  4. Don’t take people too serious – including yourself!
    You think your academic project will be ground-breaking and world-changing because of the in-depth analysis of a complex issue that has a severe impact on society? Nobody will care. Perhaps your fellow university mates or your professor – that’s something, so appreciate it! We tend to take ourselves too serious, just the way we take other people too serious. The truth is, most people don’t intentionally hurt or piss you off – it just happens and it was most probably nothing personal. And even if there is some he-said-she-said- talk – it will pass, for sure!
  5. Gratitude and mindfulness are keys to satisfaction!
    That’s a deep one: 1. nobody will bring you the time back you are wasting on worrying or planning. Be aware of your own personality, your needs and your environment. As a consequence, learn to reflect properly. Life is not as complicated as we like to see it (oh yes, many of us actually LOVE the drama). 2. Be grateful for whatever you have in your life – may it be health, your friends, family, an interesting job or a fortune. Appreciate what you have, this will keep you motivated and positive. Pro level: Express gratitude to others!


International relations (basic crash course)

  1. It’s all about power!
    There are several ways to define power, but in the end it almost always boils down to the matter of power gains. The ones who have power want not only to maintain it, but as well extend it, the ones who lost it, want to restore it, the ones who never had it, want to gain it. The means can differ in order to achieve this goal, but in the end it boils down to power interests.
  2. There is no truth!
    In the first semester you will call it “bias”, in the second perhaps “intersubjectivity” and when you move on you will label it as “(social) constructivism”. What scholars tried to put fancily, is that everyone has an own perspective – you see the world differently than your neighbour as a consequence of your experience, surrounding, etc. This shapes identity and when different identities collide – each of them believing they would own the one and only truth – the challenges emerge. Being aware of that, judgement and prejudices can be questioned easily. In reality, often there is no time or reason to challenge the own values.
  3. Political actors are supposedly rational!
    In theory, political actors are rational and want to make the best out of a situation and gain in the long run. Depending on the perspective, this can be achieved through cooperation, brachial force or socially responsible allocation of resources. Technically, there is a logic behind every political step, unfortunately human beings don’t always make sense.
  4. Nothing happens in a vacuum – interdependence and dependency
    One action causes another and has an impact on future decisions and actions (path dependency). Moreover, actions provoke a reaction – this can be passivity as well. Nothing happens in a vacuum, it always has an impact on other actors and interests.
  5. The nation state – old school or fashionable revival?
    Classic IR used to speak only about nation states, leaving out most other forms of organizations and entities. Everything was supposed to be analysed from a state-centred perspective. As the Berlin Wall fell, the bipolar division of power blocs eroded and the role of the nation state changed – international cooperation appeared to be the new trend and non-state actors became more visible. This development did not apply to every region – the understanding of the role of the state differs highly, actors cannot be identified as easily as before, classic means for conflict resolution therefore often fail.

Looking back, university can be a great and fun journey, in spite of the long nights when projects had to be finished, the pressure about improving your CV in order to be competitive on the labour market, the exploitative non- or low-paid internships and crappy student jobs. The constant exchange with others is like a mirror one can use to get to know yourself better – in the end it was all worth it, if not for a fancy career, then at least for yourself.

Picture (in case you wondered: the „three wise monkeys“ represent the phrase „see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil“ – another useful lesson): flickr.com (Creative Commons), user: Anderson Mancini

2 Kommentare zu „15 things I have ACTUALLY learned at university

  1. Ich glaube, fast alle Punkte kann man auf den Alltag übertragen – eigene Ideen entwickeln, mit anderen reden (soweit wie notwendig, soviel, wie man möchte), sich gut darstellen und den Neid beseite schieben. Nur Punkt 2 ist für mich eine Gratwanderung. Die Frage ist, wo man ankannt sein will. Mit den entsprechenden Termini kommt man sicher gut in seinem (beruflichen?) Umfeld an, aber um Kontakte zu anderen Bereichen zu knüpfen, sollte man sein Vokabular vereinfachen. Fachfremden Dinge so zu erklären, dass sie sie verstehen und erkennen, was dir daran so wichtig ist, das hilft einem weiter.

    1. Liebe Evy,
      Danke für deinen Kommentar. Ich stimme dir zu – es ist in der Tat eine Gratwanderung, mit der man auch auf die Klappe fallen kann. Allerdings ist eine Flexibilität im Vokabular wichtig – einerseits um eben Fachfremde zu erreichen, andererseits um eben diejenigen zu überzeugen, die einem vielleicht im beruflichen Umfeld die Hand zur Weiterentwicklung reichen können.

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